Starting all five games for Team USA this summer, he led all players in the tournament with 18 steals and tied for third with 20 assists.
“A lot of young players, it’s all about them,” Donovan said. “They’re only focused on themselves, how it’s going for them. I’ve never seen a kid that age have an unbelievable awareness of what everyone around him is experiencing.
“I really enjoyed being around him. I told Travis he’s going to have a ball coaching him.”
Ford has assembled a fair share of talented pieces at OSU. Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown and Brian Williams among them.
Yet for all the talent, something’s been missing, a straw to stir the mix.
“He has that ability to bring out the best in other people around him,” Donovan said. “Every coach is teaching guys to get on the floor for loose basketballs. But if you have a guy who’s a really good player doing that, it grabs everybody’s attention.
“Marcus is willing to do the things that a lot of other players would not be willing to do to win. You can play him in any role, tell him what you need, and he’ll give you what you need.”
What the Cowboys need is a point guard, somebody to lock down a position in disarray since Byron Eaton’s eligibility ran out four seasons ago.
Some wonder if the 6-foot-4 Smart projects as a full-time point guard.
Those who have watched him most closely, however, harbor no doubts.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who tried to lure Smart to Chapel Hill, reportedly told Flower Mound Marcus coach Danny Henderson that he could see Smart playing four positions on the floor.
“‘I don’t know where he’d play,’” Henderson said Williams told him, “‘but I know this, we won’t be able to keep him off the floor.’”
Donovan played Smart at both guard positions in Brazil, but primarily used him at the point.
“There’s nothing he can’t do,” Donovan said. “That kid can play an entire game and never take a shot and still have a deciding impact on the game.
In practices, he’s demonstrated an elevated awareness and vision of the floor, requiring teammates to be aware at all times for no-look bullet passes.
“I think his best position is point guard,” Fraschilla said. “I really do. I think that’s his spot. Whatever you call him, he’s got to have the ball in his hands.”
Maybe asking Smart to handle a regular gig at the point seems like a lot. Maybe asking him to step in and transform a team and even lead — and the Cowboys are — sounds like a heavy burden.
Said Fraschilla: “He’s got the DNA of a champion.”
The mindset, too.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes for this team. Whatever I have to do,” Smart said. “If that involves me being one of the leaders of this team, that definitely will be done.
“We have outstanding players on this team. Outstanding coaching staff. Amazing fan support. And this team is going to be really good and do amazing things. I’m just glad and thankful to be a part of it.”